Josh Hamilton

And That Happened: Wednesday’s scores and highlights

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Angels 13, Cubs 2: It’s almost as if Josh Hamilton hadn’t totally forgotten how to play baseball or something. Go figure. Two homers and five RBI in this romp. One of his homers was back-to-back with a Pujols home run. First time that’s happened this year.

Nationals 5, Phillies 1: The Nats hit four homers off Cliff Lee: back-to-back in the fifth, back-to-back in the sixth. Otherwise Lee was fine and Mrs. Lincoln enjoyed the play.

Dodgers 7, Diamondbacks 5: The sweep, as A.J. Ellis ties it up in the ninth and then homers in the fourteenth. The Dodgers were 12 games under .500 and nine and a half games out of first on June 22. Now they are back to .500 and one and a half back of the Diamondbacks after winning 15 of 18. I do a lot of radio spots around the country each week. A lot of the same stations over and over. It’s cute how the hosts and I talk about the surging Dodgers without acknowledging that we both talked about Don Mattingly’s imminent firing just a few weeks ago. We totally pretend we never said that stuff.

Blue Jays 5, Indians 4: They Jays rallied for three in the ninth and then held the Tribe’s own ninth inning rally to two runs. Terry Francona explains the ninth inning:

“Smitty had faced Arencibia four times and struck him out four times,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “That’s the matchup we wanted. With Kawasaki, he just left the ball over the plate and Bourny mishandled it for the unearned run.”

It takes a real pro to be obviously angry and disappointed but STILL use silly, childish nicknames for your players. That’s why Tito is Tito. Or maybe he should be Titoy or something.

Mets 7, Giants 2: Zack Wheeler was in the Giants organization once. They decided that a rental of Carlos Beltran was more valuable to them than keeping Wheeler. Probably not feeling that way this morning. Wheeler gave up one run in seven innings and had an RBI. Matt Cain lasted only two-thirds. The Mets sweep. The Giants are a disaster.

Marlins 6, Braves 2: A four-run first inning included a Giancarlo Stanton RBI double, which helped break his slump and the Marlins five-game losing streak.

Orioles 6, Rangers 1: Wei-Yin Chen finally returns from the DL and gives the O’s exactly what they needed: Seven innings, three hits and one run.

Reds 6, Brewers 2: Mike Leake helped stop the Reds bleeding — they’ve dropped five games behind the Cardinals — by pitching into the ninth inning, allowing only two runs.

Yankees 8, Royals 1: Ivan Nova allowed one run in eight innings while Robinson Cano and Lyle Overbay homered. Overbay’s was a slam. Both Brett Gardner and Travis Hafner left the game with contusions of one kind or another.

Pirates 5, Athletics 0: A’s beat writers were tweeting pics of ominous skies before this game started, remarking how strange it looked to them and how in California you simply don’t see that sort of thing. Maybe it threw the A’s off too. Maybe a three hour rain delay did. Either way, Francisco Liriano stymied Oakland batters.

Tigers 8, White Sox 5: Three hits a piece for Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, who added a home run. Joaquin Benoit walked two in the ninth but he did manage to convert his eighth save opportunity of the year so perhaps there is finally some stability at the end of the Tigers bullpen.

Rays 4, Twins 3: Thirteen innings played, 35 strikeouts between the teams. Bet this one was riveting to watch. Ben Zobrist with the game winning single. The Twins have dropped 10 of 11. The Rays are on fire.

Red Sox 11, Mariners 4: David Ortiz doubled, homered and drove in three. Felix Doubront allowed one run in seven. Ortiz’s double put him past Harold Baines for the most hits from a DH all-time.

Cardinals 5, Astros 4: Matt Carpenter hit a two-run homer in the seventh — off a lefty — to put the Cards past Houston. Take that, platoon splits.

Rockies 5, Padres 4: Jorge De La Rosa took a one-hit shutout into the sixth inning. It was his sixth straight win against the Padres.

Video: Minor leaguer dives over the wall to rob a home run

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Meanwhile, in Tulsa, Zach Welz of the visiting Arkansas Travelers made a spectacular catch. It was the catch Torii Hunter tried to make on that famous David Ortiz homer in the playoffs a few years back except Welz made it.

Watch as he topples over the wall to come up with the would-be dinger off the bat of Tulsa Drillers first baseman Cody Bellinger:

MLB, MLBPA move to help baseball in Puerto Rico. After hurting baseball in Puerto Rico.

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO - JUNE 30:  A Puerto Rican flag flies from a building a day after the speech Puerto Rican Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla gave regarding the government's $72 billion debt on June 30, 2015 in San Juan, Puerto Rico.  The Governor said in his speech that the people will have to sacrifice and share in the responsibilities for pulling the island out of debt.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Yesterday Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Union announced that they will play games in Puerto Rico as part of a plan to develop and support baseball on the island. They likewise pledged $5 million for the creation of development programs in Puerto Rico and plan to stage special events there.

The press release about this made mention of Puerto Rico’s undeniably outstanding baseball tradition. What it did not mention is that, in the view of many, Major League Baseball itself harmed that tradition significantly when it decided to subject Puerto Rican players to the draft in 1990. A move that the MLBPA signed off on too, of course. Indeed, there’s a pretty strong argument that, if it were not for MLB and the MLBPA’s own acts, there would be no need to “develop and support” baseball in Puerto Rico like this at all.

An exploration of this can be read in this 2012 article from The New York Times. The article (and many, many others like it which have been written over the years) notes the sharp decline of Puerto Rico’s professional and amateur baseball leagues and observes that the once steady flow of players making their way from the island to the major leagues being reduced to a trickle.* (see update below) Why?

No one here disputes the diminished stature of baseball in Puerto Rico, and most agree on the culprit: Major League Baseball’s decision, in 1990, to include Puerto Rico, a commonwealth of the United States, in its first-year player draft. This means Puerto Rican players must wait until they have completed high school to sign a professional contract, and then they are going up against players from the United States and Canada in the draft.

Perhaps more important, major league teams have less incentive to cultivate talent in Puerto Rico because those players may end up with another team through the draft.

Sandy Alderson is quoted in that article dismissing the notion that the draft was to blame, but even his dodge is couched in basic economic incentives. He claims that, hey, there is stuff that is more financially lucrative for people to do in Puerto Rico than play baseball now. Well, sure. I’d just like him to explain how radically reducing the amount of money a kid can get from playing baseball due to taking away his right to sign with the highest bidder and by utterly killing the incentives for clubs to invest in developing players doesn’t enter into that calculus. Alderson doesn’t explain that one.

No matter what Major League Baseball might say on the record about all of this now, the fact remains that no one spent the past 26 years building academies in Puerto Rico like they have in Venezuela or the Dominican Republic. No one has an incentive to turn a 12-year-old with promise into a 16-year-old prospect like they do in those countries because there is no longer any way for a teenager to sign for life-changing money like they can elsewhere. The draft has saved Major League Baseball hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to Puerto Rican players over the past 26 years and it has reduced the number of prospects who may push high-salaried MLBPA members out of work, but has done tremendous damage to the baseball tradition to which Major League Baseball and the MLBPA now pay lip service.

I’m glad that MLB and the MLBPA are doing something about baseball in Puerto Rico. But $5 million over the course of four or five years, which is what this plan involves, a couple of games (if they’re even played), doesn’t even represent a fraction of the damage that the league and the union inflicted when they imposed the draft.

UPDATE: A couple of people who know a hell of a lot about this stuff have pushed back against my post on Twitter:

Marcano has written a book about the excesses and abuses involved in the development of baseball talent in Latin America. He is 100% right about this and, to the extent my writing above made it sound like I was endorsing the model in place in Venezuela and the Dominican Republic on its own terms, I want to be clear that I am not. There is a lot of bad stuff that goes on there and for every kids signing a million dollar bonus, there are hundreds who find themselves at a professional dead end or far, far worse.

That said: Major League Baseball has no problem exploiting that system in those countries and its move to impose the draft in Puerto Rico was not born of some principled stand against those excesses. It was to be a foothold for an international draft which is primarily about cost savings. It would be quite possible to have a system in place that both (a) protects kids from abuses; but (b) provides the sorts of financial incentives to make baseball a worthwhile pursuit for those with the talent to play it.

Also:

Cooper, the managing editor of Baseball America, so he knows of what he speaks, notes that from 1987-1990, before the draft was imposed, 19 Puerto Ricans made their Major League debut. From 2000-03, 23 made their debuts. From 2013-16, 22 made their debuts.

That certainly blows my above comment about “reducing the flow of players to the majors to a trickle” out of the water. That said, Major League Baseball’s move yesterday was not just about the pipeline to the majors. It’s about baseball overall in Puerto Rico. Those numbers reflecting that the top eschelon of talent is still making it to the majors are undeniable, but the Times article from 2012 talks about the erosion of amateur leagues, Puerto Rico’s diminished standing in international tournaments and the reduction in size of the Puerto Rican winter league.

So, OK, I’ll walk back my comments about just how much the imposition of the draft in 1990 damaged baseball in Puerto Rico, but I maintain that it’s hard to argue that it did not do some damage.